This week on Butali House Reads, we chat with Duncan Sodala. He describes himself as a, not so outgoing, homeboy but he is known to many as a recording artist, businessman, and founder of The Time Machine Zambia, a collectibles company. His new album Dreaming In High Definition has been well received and is still a subject of conversation.
How did you get into the comic book business?
When I was younger I read comics like Archie, The Adventures of Tintin, Asterix. Of course, I used to like watching X-men, Conan and then for some years I forgot about that. I was more into music for a very long time. Two years ago, I was surfing the internet and I came across someone selling a bundle of comics so it hit me: this is something everyone used to like and I think people don’t really outgrow some things. I think at an older age it becomes also about collecting and there is a whole commerce behind comics. I decided to order a few comic books, that was 2016 and I tried to sell to a few of my friends and they got interested and that’s how The Time Machine Zambia was born. It went from comic books and then vinyl’s, figurines as well.
Comics have never really been popular in Zambia but do you think we are heading towards some sort of comic book boom?
We could have a comic book boom but I am more interested in comic book industry itself in Zambia: the designers, the story writers, I think we can write our own stories. Our own African stories, in the comic book format, and that’s when the boom can come. I think it easier for young people to start with comics and then advance to reading novels. I am really excited to see where the comic book industry in Zambia will be going in a few years.
Is that what happened to you? Did comic books lead to you becoming a reader?
Exactly. The comics really got me into reading but also movies. Sometimes you watch a movie and you discover there is a book for the movie and you are like, “This is much better.” I think it is better to experience such stories through reading because it’s more detailed. You paint your own pictures, in your mind.
Is there a book that got you into reading?
There is a book I read years back that really got me into reading, it was The Fourth Estate by Jeffrey Archer. It had a political angle to it, it had a love story, so many different aspects in one book. That’s one of the books that got me into reading.
How much reading should a songwriter do?
It depends on how inspired one is. There are some songwriters who are not just inspired by reading but by life, they are inspired by life. In fact, most songwriters are inspired by what is around them. But I think for a rapper it is important to do a lot of reading when they are younger. It is good to have that foundation. It is not really about the continuous reading, it is about inspiring events.
Do you have a favorite genre?
Of late, I have really been more into business and motivational books.
Is there a book you read that changed how you look at life?
There is a book about taking a leap of faith. It is about family life going through a lot of hurdles and celebrating each other’s successes and just it is a very inspirational book. The author really painted the family life. It is a very small book but very powerful.
Have you ever found inspiration for a song in a book?
I have never really found inspiration for a song in a book more from the style of writing. I’ll give you an example. What type of writing does Agatha Christie do? Crime?
Yes. Exactly, that style of writing. Agatha Christie, how would she write this song? on this beat? Because most of the time personally, I get inspired by the beat. There is a song I did a couple of years ago, it was produced by a friend of mine Peewee. It is called Murder She Wrote, I got inspired by the beat, I wrote it like a thriller, sort of crime. “It’s a cold Wednesday evening and am driving from work late/ am rolling down the avenue it’s a quarter past 8,” and then I am driving along the road and I find a beautiful looking lady at the side of the road. I pick her up and she introduces herself, we get talking, she says she needs to find a bus stop I tell her it is too late to find a bus stop it is dangerous so I offer to give her accommodation for the night and that’s what happens, we are talking, we seem to be vibing and you know how it is, two young people, things happen. In the morning this guy is dead. So now I am speaking from the aspect of a dead guy. It turns out the lady I picked up is a serial killer.
Is the narrator actually dead?
In the beginning of the song; when I am picking her up, I am alive but I think by the time we get to the second verse I am dead. I was victim number 20 and this woman is known as the black widow. I think we do get inspired by different stories and styles.
Do you have a favorite writer?
Jeffrey Archer. He caught me pretty early when I was young and I liked how he meshed his stories together. I don’t know how many of his books have been made into movies but I think they would make great movies because they have these different timelines. It is one book but it has different timelines and almost at the end they come together and they make sense.
Do you think you have anything in common with Jeffrey Archer?
Maybe, under-appreciation (laughs). You know where you don’t feel like you are appreciated enough.
What are you currently reading?
I am reading a book on the subconscious mind. How brands use different methods to market products to us. How they have these hidden messages. It is interesting how for years; a brand can be sort of building you. Building up to marketing something to you, like Coca-Cola. All these brands and you have no idea that they have marketed it to you since you were a baby.
What is the best African book you have read?
Things Fall Apart. That book was in high school. They made us read that in literature.
A second favorite book? Because that one is too easy.
Nelson Mandela, No Easy Walk to Freedom. A lot of people know Nelson Mandela the man, the figure, the statesman, but I think the sacrifices that he mad and what he archived. It’s really something to revere a lot.
Do you have any advice for someone trying to become a writer?
Work on your craft. Don’t take it for granted. It is important to get feedback from people. Have it tested before you release it. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
Thank you very much for sitting with us.
Thank you for having me.
Who Moved My Cheese? by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
Letter to a Young Brother by Hill Harper
No Easy Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Have a Life Attack: Live, Love & Laugh Full Out! By Sean Willard
You can find Dreaming In High Definition on any of these platforms: